Saturday, September 27, 2008

It's officially fall.

A few getting-into-routine days... next week is the first all-university exam week. Yes, I'll be writing my first exam. Eep. It will be great; so far we've discussed "family" and "education..." It hasn't gone exactly as I've planned, since I'm finding out that they're not as advanced as I thought they were. They're still respectful, and participatory, but I get lots of blank faces when I talk about things even at an intermediate level. Which just means there's lots to do! :)

This week has been pretty chill; thankfully, Victoria and I were able to successfully register our FM-3 visas, which apparently doesn't mean much unless we get in trouble and the police see that we're not registered. But we don't really plan on that happening. It's just good to know that we're doing things by the book, even if it was a huge pain.

It's getting fall-like... I smelled a fall crispness a few days ago... and BOY did it make me want to go watch (slash cheer for) a Naperville North football game. Or at least roast marshmallows by a fire. I wore a skirt to school on Tuesday and got some funny looks... and several people asked me if I was cold... I tried to explain that I was from Chicago, this is nothing, but they just shook their heads and walked their pea coat-clad selves away.

I've learned a few things in these past few days... including:
-Don't expect anything to be open on a Sunday afternoon. Or a Saturday afternoon, for that matter.
-Mexicans aren't as into soap specifically for the face.
-Nor are they into mousse. Oops. Maybe I should have taken my mom up on her offer to buy me some backup stuff. :P

I've been hanging out with my neighbor, Francisco, Victoria (who just got a kitten!), and Nirvana a lot lately... Nirvana and I went dancing last night with her swim teacher, and they tried to coach me in the intricacies of Norteño versus Cumbia versus Salsa versus some others that I don't remember... it was fun. :)

This weekend just taking it chill, cleaning a bit, trying to assemble my recently-delivered sofa bed (come visit! :)), and working on my online TEFL/TESOL certification. That's pretty much it. :)

hasta luego~besos

Sunday, September 21, 2008

home to the Forestal...

Ahh a gorgeous weekend!! Went to Forestal Laureles, my home for 2 months 3 years ago when I came to Mexico City on a mission trip... I've kept in touch with a few close friends from the youth group, and they hosted me for the weekend...

Ricardo and Lalo came and picked me up from the metro, and I didn't want to stop hugging them! We went up the mountain, it takes a while, saw my dear friend Marce and her family... We hung out at their chicken shop until they got off work, then Marce and I went to go pick up our friend Olga from her house to go to youth group. When we got there, Nayeli was giving the message and the look on her face when I walked in was priceless. :) After the service, there were a ton of hugs, kisses, squeals (not only on my part :P), pictures (included)... and I promised to return sometime during October...

Saturday night I slept at Marce's house, home also to her parents and 6 brothers and sisters, all of whom I hung out with a lot 3 years ago... it was a beautiful night. We ended up going to bed early :P

Sunday morning we went to church, and it was a little surreal to be back in that building, where Megan (my Latin America Missions counterpart for the summer) and I slept in the basement, where we spent lots and lots of time at Bible studies, midweek services, and Sunday mornings... it was cool, though. Lots of worship, a message by a new member, and then time for testimonies... oh, and they recognized me at one point, too... I went up during the testimonies to give my saludos and thank them for welcoming me so kindly... Lots of hellos afterward, more hugs and besitos and promises to return... I loved the fact that I'm not going anywhere for a while and can make good on my promises to return...

Today back to the grind--I need to go to bed earler :P Tomorrow back to the registro civil, to try once more to register our visas, and seeing my friend Victoria in Toluca.

Hasta pronto! Besos~

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Real quick...

I'm about to head to Mexico City, to visit my friends from when I lived here 3 years ago... I'm pumped! We've been in touch, they're coming to pick me up at the Metro... it's going to be awesome. :)

Regarding my recent posts... I don't know how many of you are up on Mexican goings-on, but over the past few years, there have been some serious spikes in crime rates... lots of petty crime, kidnappings, drug trafficking and the like... I don't want to ignore this stuff, but neither do I want to live with a spirit of fear... or give the perpetrators of these crimes the attention that they're seeking. My respect, however, does go to the victims of these crimes, particularly the victims of a grenade in the midst of the Independence Day celebrations on Tuesday...

Please don't worry about me... and please don't think Mexicans are evil. Because what a horrendous generalization. And, as they say "hay de todo..." in every society there is good and evil. I have been fortunate to have met some incredible, intelligent, hardworking, funny and kind people here... and I've only been here a few weeks. People at my school, my neighbors, other friends... they have all been so kind to me, and really for no reason other than the fact that they're good people.

I feel like I'm blathering, but hopefully this makes sense. All this to say, I try to take care of myself as any person should, and people are looking out for me, too. I don't want to be afraid, but neither do I want to be naive. With that, I am off to my weekend in Mexico City... more to come!


Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Fiestas Patrias!

So Tuesday was Mexican Independence Day, and the festivities began on Monday evening...

Omar and Liz, the couple who took us to Taxco on Sunday, invited Victoria and I to their friends' town for the celebrations--Acambay, a little town near Atlacomulco, about an hour away from Toluca. We left Monday evening, and the drive was gorgeous. It's interesting to see the pasaje, the scenery, after you get out of Toluca and Lerma, which are apparently the industrial hub of the country... which means not so pretty. But outside of the city lines, especially due to the extra rain lately, everything is lush and green and beautiful...

So turns out the friends in Acambay, Lili and Alejandro, are awesome. :) Lili, turns out, is a member of the local government, which meant that we got invited to the party in the presidential palace, and hob-knobbed with the local bigwigs. And everything was free! ;) We walked around the plaza a bit, bought some snackies (obviously), and then participated in the "grito": a short historical account of the revolution/independence is read, then the highest local political official (in this case, our friend the President) leads everyone in a "shout:" He says "Viva México" and we answered "Viva!"; then names some of the revolutionary heroes, and more "Viva"s... then the gunshots begin. This is apparently the only night in which people can fire their guns off in the street legally... that went on for quite a while. It got loud! And some dum-dum shot out the electrical cables, so everything went dark for a few hours... oops!

After the grito, we went back upstairs for the gvt shindig, and there was a huge mariachi band, drinks, more snacks, and lots of dancing! There were few females, so we danced a TON! We stayed out real late, meaning we missed the parade on Tuesday morning cause we were sleeping, but then we went to get breakfast again in the plaza-- my first carnitas here in Mexico! O man they were delicious! Then trying some other foods, like huaraches... also nummy. Then we went back to Lili's parents' house, and they have this beautiful mini-orchard in their backyard... we picked some fruit and enjoyed the sunshine and company... all in all a beautiful celebration!

Today back to work, my students' assignment for this Friday is a Facebook profile in English... can't wait to see what they write! :)

Hasta luego~ besos!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Weekend fun with Victoria!

My first full weekend installed in my house has been a good one! Not that I've spent much time here, though...

Friday my friend Victoria and I, also here on a Fulbright ETA, tried to register our visas with the gvt. Mistake. They tried to make us do lots of crazy things like change the status of our visas... thankfully Jessica, our Fulbright go-to, told us she would take care of it. She's the bomb.

Anyway, Victoria and I spent the day in Toluca, where she lives, hanging around, chatting, catching up; I got to see her University (a few times bigger than mine, but I still like my U ;)), we went to lunch with her tutor, Kirk, who has lived here in Mexico for about 15 years... he has some crazy stories. I stayed at Victoria's house on Friday, and Saturday morning we returned to Lerma, and stumbled upon what I assume to be the beginning of Lerma's "diamond-ness..." a HUGE market. Selling lots of delicious things--we ate some quesadillas, some tlacoyos (stuffed masa shaped like a football), some freshly squeezed orange juice... I could get used to that. Bought some num-nums, returned to my house, cleaned up a bit, then we received an invitation from her friends Omar and Liz--for a "Noche Mexicana." We went to one of Omar's uncle's homes (it was huge), and proceeded to stuff ourselves with pozole (a soup with hominy and other delicious additions), tacos dorados (rolled up and fried tacos), tostadas (fried tortillas with meat and cheese and lettuce on top), pambazos (grilled rolls with meat and cheese and cream and lettuce inside--like a sandwich), and tamales... holy smokes. Obviously I had to try everything. It was all sooooo good... good thing we don't eat like that every weekend! :)

During the course of the evening, chatting with Omar's family, we had to admit that we haven't traveled very much, so Omar and Liz invited us to Taxco for Sunday. Taxco (pronounced TAS-co) is in the state of Guerrero (the same state as Acapulco), and is well known for it's colonial history and it's silver mining. They drove us, kindly, and we spent the day looking through the various "platerías," finding treasures in unlikely places, and of course, eating. :) I came home with a few pairs of wooden earrings, a necklace, a mobile of fish (that's currently hung up here in my bedroom), and some beautiful paintings of birds on a background of rough paper. And some new friends. :) They've also invited us to their other family member's house for this evening, which will kick off the festivities for Independence Day, which is tomorrow... more on that tomorrow. :)

Oh, and I have internet at my house now! Yay! I ended up getting it from a smaller company, so they were able to get right on it. It's AWESOME. Skype me! :)

Hasta pronto... besos!

From Paulo Coehlo's "The Pilgrimage"

"When you travel, you experience, in a very practical way, the act of rebirth. You confront completely new situations, the day passes more slowly, and on most journeys you don't even understand the language the people speak. So you are like a child just out of the womb. You begin to attach much more importance to the things around you because your survival depends on them. You begin to be more accessible to others because they may be able to help you in difficult situations. And you accept any small favor from the gods with great delight, as if it were an episode you would remember for the rest of your life.
"At the same time, since all things are new, you see only the beauty in them, and you feel happy to be alive..."

--Recent gifts I've been given:
~proximity to my sweet friend Victoria
~new friends Omar and Liz
~The kindness of my fellow teachers and my students

more to come...

Thursday, September 11, 2008

First week of classes

First week of class is officially over. And I am officially super excited.

My students are the most advanced in the school; those who have already passed the TOEFL exam. They're looking for more help on their fluency, vocabulary, etc... we're going to have a great time. Also, since they've passed their exams, this class is sort of voluntary--meaning that for the most part, they want to be there. Within each class are a variety of levels, but they're all good-natured and kind and willing to try--and that's all I ask for.

I've been playing tons of Simon Says with the other professors' classes, that's been real fun. It's also fun to put names to faces, and be able to greet students around campus-- I don't feel like such an alien anymore. Huzzah!

In my own classes, we've brought pictures in for Show and Tell, we've listened to different genres of music, we've played Simon Says just for some calisthenics... and I asked them to tell me a. their favorite word in English and b. three things they want to learn in our class. A sampling of their favorite words: awesome, king, dead, tissue, serves you right, beautiful... I told them my favorite word in Spanish is "trabajaba," meaning "I used to work," just 'cause I think it's funny. :)

We'll see how next week goes--next Tuesday is Mexican Independence Day, (from Spain,) so there will be lots of fun things going on... I was hoping to go visit a new Fulbright friend in Veracruz this weekend, but alas, my plans fell through. I'm sure we'll reschedule. And I'm sure other happenings will be happening.

Hasta luego... besos!

Monday, September 8, 2008

My internet saga begins... + first day of class!

I think I forgot about the sometimes lack of ease/facilitation of institutions and other entities in México. Sigh. I tried to get internet, but you can't get it here without a landline, so I had to order that, then when that's installed, I have to come back to the store and order internet... it could be a month. Double sigh.

Thankfully, my new friends Felipe and Antonia, the owners of the local internet café, are very kind--and available. :) We'll be seeing more of each other, I'm sure. :)

Today was the official beginning of the semester at the University, and because the U has recently begun 2 new majors, Public Health and Paramedic(ery, i don't know how you say that in English :P), we had the Secretaries of Health and Education of the State of Mexico present for the inauguration ceremony. It was sweet, and interesting. Everyone's so darn POLITE here. Everyone greets everyone, students when they talk to me (though I might be the same age as them) are so kind and respectful... it's real sweet. Though I do stick out like a sore thumb (a new phrase I taught to my colleagues). It's almost worse than Chile--at least they had tourists there, here, I'm very noticeable. I'm trying not to let it go to my head ;)

My students are awesome, they put up with my antics... we have a good time. :) The other professors and I are trying to speak only English in the school, which is fun. They're all really good-natured, I like them a lot.

My new home, Lerma, I believe to be a diamond in the rough. Right now, it's mostly rough. I'm sure I will find its diamond-ness soon. They make a killer quesadilla down the street from my house... I could get used to that. Hopefully this weekend will hold something fun and exciting... perhaps a quick trip. :)


Saturday, September 6, 2008

I have a home¡

Yayy¡ After days of searching, I have a home¡ THANK YOU for your prayers¡ it's this sweet 2-bedroom house, on a private street, with security from 7 pm-7 am... i feel great about it. my coworkers have been SO awesome in helping me to find a place and also schlepping me all around to buy furniture, linens, and pretty much everything else--the place didn't come furnished. but it's ok, cause i can decorate etc. to my liking. And, though it's been pretty costly, thankfully Fulbright did us a favor and gave us extra money at the beginning. I've also gotten to see a bunch of off-the-beaten-path places, like a few factory-direct shops, for linens and such. The 'dollar store' inside the wal-mart, where i got cute dishes and other various and sundry things. Also, this ENTIRE street of carpintery. I think that's how you spell it. Anyway. My colleagues Anne and Julio and I walked up and down for a while to find the best deals. Thanks to them, I got 3 pretty cheap things--a bed frame, a bookshelf, and a beautiful table. I'll have to go back for the chairs, but for the moment, I'm getting myself settled.

It kind of reminds me of the old 'student housing' days. You walk into the kitchen-dining room, and to the left you face the kitchen, with bedrooms on either side, and a bathroom in the middle, too. The hot water works, the landlord is letting me borrow a stove and a refrigerator, which is awesome, cause those are super expensive, and little by little, things are coming together. I'll hopefully get some pictures up soon.

There have been a few 'what the heck did i get myself into' moments, but on the whole things are great. I have a phone date with my family tonight, and will hopefully be getting internet soon. Classes start for real on Monday, and mostly Monday and Tuesday I'm a floater, conducting different conversations/games and such with different teachers' classes. Wednesday and Thursday I have 3 of my own classes, which should be nice--intimidating, initially, but nice.

Thanks for reading... besos--

Thursday, September 4, 2008

First few days of class!

Yayy someone came to pick me up! Nirvana, the professor that Fulbright has assigned me to work with here, was at our English Teacher's orientation on Tuesday morning... she's a gem. After the orientation was over, with a sad goodbye to my new friends Victoria, Brandon, Peter and Arleen, we drove to the university to meet some of the staff. That's the Universidad Tecnologica del Valle de Toluca, to be precise. It's in the middle of these gorgeous, wooded hills... it's beautiful. I met the other English teachers, and have since also met the directors of the different majors, who have all been SO kind and welcoming and quick to assure me that they are here to help me with anything I might need.

Unfortunately, I have yet to find a place to live. I hope that changes this afternoon! A lot of the places I've seen are either too far, too small or too much $$... but since I'll be here for 9 months, working, I'd also like my living place to be comfortable--and nice. So. Thankfully, Nirvana (my hostess) has graciously allowed me to stay with her since Tuesday... I hope to not be a burden on her for much longer.

The other teachers are SO kind; it's interesting to see each of their different levels and styles as I go visit each of their classes... I believe they're hoping that I'll do a few workshops for them, the teachers, also. That could be REALLY fun. :)

I had my first real class today, at 9 am... with students that have already passed their TOEFL exam, but who want more practice. According to Nirvana, most of the students at the school are at a very basic English level, mostly in need of practice with a native speaker--enter ME. :) Since this is a technical school, along the lines of COD with the students graduating with approximately the equivalent of an associate's degree, it is smaller, with approximately 1.700 students. And they ALL have to take English. So i'll be meeting/working with most of the school. The students that I've already met are all very kind, respectful, and seemingly excited about school/English. Let's hope that carries past the first week of class :) And let's hope that it doesn't show that this is my first formal English Teaching experience. :)

Hope to have more info soon! (and maybe even an internet connection :P)


Monday, September 1, 2008


Oh man. I wish I could put up more photos; unfortunately, the connection here in the hostal is kinda tricky.

Man. They speak a seriously Mexican Spanish here. Imagine, Mexican Spanish in Mexico. I know. But after such a long time in Chile, learning to speak Chileno, Mexican Spanish is easy by comparison. The vocabulary is definitely different, that's been fun/challenging, but they pronounce nearly ALL of their s's, and their d's... so different than Chile. When people hear me speak, they get a little thrown off and ask me where I learned Spanish, and some initially ask me if it's Chilean... I love that. :) It makes me want to hold on to my Chilean accent. ;) Vamos a ver.

Also, I was just commenting to my friend Katie... After all I've heard and read and experienced about this City, I've found it beautifully welcoming and friendly. Thankfully, we've had no trouble with our things, they've been secure here in the hostel; everyone we've had to ask for directions has been very helpful (and some also enjoy practicing their English with us-- hard to blame them)... it's been a great first few days.

Tomorrow, we 5 English teachers have our specific orientation, beginning at 9 am... meaning we have to get ourselves and our approximately 15 pieces of luggage into taxis and over to this other building, then sit for some some meetings. Supposedly our "tutors" (the professors with whom we will be working at our respective institutions) will come to pick us up from there. My friend Victoria and I will be living about half an hour away from each other, which should be fun. I think (before seeing things), that I will live in Lerma, where my university is actually located, instead of in Toluca where I originally thought I would be. It may be less mobile, but hopefully I will get used to that and eventually enjoy it.

Oh, and this post's label: today we tried to get cell phones, but were deterred-- we'll each have to get them in our respective cities. We went for lunch to Chinatown, this one random alley/pedestrian walkway close to our hostel... it was great. Later we went to see a Mexican movie, "A-M-O-R letra por letra." It was great; after being sort of disappointed with Chilean cinema, I'm excited to see more of Mexico's offerings.

Ok, I think it's time for us to go pack. Hope you're all well--shoot me an email when you get a chance! ;)